It's Still the People's Republic of Bangladesh

অতিথি লেখক's picture
Submitted by guest_writer on Mon, 08/04/2013 - 12:31pm

Let us face the fact- there was a huge turnout at the long march/procession/meeting held by the Hefajat-E-Islami. However, the question is- should we be surprised or frightened? Not really. I think that the path the political parties chose since the independence of Bangladesh has made the emergence and growth of this counter-force inevitable. This showdown is actually a wake-up call and yes we need to analyze where we stand now to determine where we will be in future.

The war of 1971 was the war of liberation which did not start on March, 1971. The war of 1971, our fight for freedom is the final outcome of shaping our identity that started on 1948. Throughout this 24 years, we rejected the two nation theory, we expressed our love for our language, our heritage and we discovered and rediscovered our nationalistic Bengali identity. Eventually we decided to establish a People's Republic of Bangladesh and not an Islamic republic. We built our nation-state on four distinct principles- nationalism, secularism, socialism and democracy. This was, is and will be the spirit of 1971.
I consider the current situation interesting (or should I say ironic) for a number of reasons.

First, it looks like we never really dealt with the ghost of the Pakistani ideology. We let it live and in fact, help it to survive and now it is coming back to haunt us.

Second, its ironic that the party that led the war of liberation and established the constitution of 1972, is now negotiating with the Hefajat with their 13 point demands while completely ignoring the 6 point demand of the Shahbag Gonojagoron Mancho. And yes, the state is now negotiating about the demands most of which should be rejected out of hand.

Third, and this is the most ironic thing- whereas the so-called islamic political parties have failed to achieve significant electoral success in the last few elections, they had played an effective role in the policy process of the country. Lets not forget the AL's failure in developing a women's policy during the period of 1996-2001, the compromise in terms of amending the constitution and the protest of these forces in developing our education and women policy. How did this happen? How did these islamic political parties with relatively little electoral success became an important player in the policy process?

And this is where the failure of our political parties becomes apparent. During 1975-1990, two military dictators raped our constitution, out of no where secularism was wiped out and Islam became the state religion. But situation did not get better after the transition towards democracy. The political parties have always learned the wrong lessons- lets face it, AL lost the 1991 election not because for being anti-islamic but for its over-confidence (hell, the party's candidates did not even stay at their constituency on the election night rather they came to Dhaka to claim ministerial positions); BNP could have won the election without the help of JIB in 2001 and AL did not lose that election for being 'secular' rather it lost it for its last two years' failure of controlling corruption and terror. Our political parties have always worked on the false rationality and they have always tried to court the islamic forces to win election on a false assumption while ignoring their crude failure in governing. And while these parties were concentrating on these, the so-called islamic parties strengthened their base, built a strong organization, ensured an adequate flow of financial resources and now we are witnessing what all these can do.

Its surprising to see that AL is still working on the false assumption. Anyone who has some idea about electoral strategy will tell you one thing- you cannot win the election without energizing your core, your base. When the party decides to ignore its distinctive ideological stance on an assumption that doing so would secure more votes, it takes the vote of its base for granted and while doing that alienates its base. And this is what is happening. The AL through its miscalculation (or who knows, may be it's intentional) has established the Hefajat as a viable political force, through participating in negotiation has legitimized this movement and only future will say whether it will gain anything. But one thing is for sure, it has insulted the secular forces and yes, from where I stand the country is facing a serious challenge. This is why-

First, the 13 point demands expressed by the Hefajat actually challenged the constitutional legitimacy of the People's Republic of Bangladesh and tries to push us to an extreme ideological spectrum which will create a different Bangladesh. A Bangladesh in which freedom of expression, association, thought will be sacrificed; A Bangladesh where human and individual rights will be defined in the narrowest sense; A Bangladesh where our cultural identity will be insulted and A Bangladesh where I have no idea what will happen to the people of other religion.

Second, I can't remember where I read this but really loved this- "True evil entered the world not with the first sin, nor even with the first murder. It came when an otherwise decent man first looked at a sinner, and at a guiltless stranger with a similar appearance... and punished both of them". This is the problem of the 13 point relies on spreading hatred and its main goal is to divide the nation, I don't know, in how many pieces. And while doing that it will do this exact same thing- it will encourage an otherwise decent man to ignore and forget the basic premises of humanity and will punish a guiltless stranger just for his/her appearances (Does that ring a bell?)

Third and finally, lets not forget one thing- barbarism is just one small step away from fanaticism and yes, these thirteen points are pushing us to that extreme.

At the end of the day, its about the future of Bangladesh and now, we are faced with the most critical question- in which Bangladesh do we want to live in 20/30 years from now? The one as demanded by Hefajat or in a people's republic? The choice is ours. At the same time, the recent show-down is an eye-opener- up till now, we had no idea how strong these islamic forces had become organizationally or financially. We have seen that and now it's time to respond!


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